Letitia Elizabeth Landon (L. E. L.) in Fisher's Drawing Room Scrap Book, 1833/Sarnat

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1833-16-Sarnât, a Boodh Monument near Benares.png


Artist: S. Prout - Engraved by: W. Taylor


Dim faith of other times, when earth was young,
And eager in belief; when men were few,
And felt their nothingness; not then elate
With numbers, science, and the victories
Which history registers o’er vanquished time.
For time is vanquished by discovery,
By arts which triumph over common wants,
By knowledge, which bequeaths the following age
All that its predecessor sought and won.
But thou, oh ancient creed, hast nought of this.
Others have given immortality
To their bold founders; he who worshipped fire,
And taught the Magi how to read the stars,
The Persian Zoroaster, left a name;
And he, too, of the crescent and the sword,
Who sternlike swept on his appointed way,
Is still his followers’ war-cry. These beliefs
Are obvious in their workings; we can trace
The one great mind that set the springs in play,
By which the human puppets rise and fall.
Ambition, avarice, cruelty, and fear,
The natural inmates of the heart in man,
Are stirred by some adventurer, who knows
How superstition can be made the bond
To fetter thousands; I can understand
The rise and progress of such earthly creed.
Oh, vanity of vanities is writ
Upon all things of earth—but what can wear
The writing on its forehead like this shrine?
It is a mighty thing to teach mankind
A new idolatry, to bind the weak
In their own fancies, to incite the strong
By high imaginations, future hopes,
Which fill the craving in all noble hearts
For things beyond themselves, beyond their sphere.
All human gifts must concentrate in Him
Who can originate a new belief—

The fiery eloquence that stirs the soul,
The poetry that can create a world
More lovely than our own, and body forth
Its glorious creation, and yet blend
This fine enthusiasm with an eye
Worldly and keen, which sees in others' faults,
Frailties, and follies, but the many means
Which work to its own ends: yet, out on pride!
Such men may live, fulfil their destiny,
Fill a whole land with temples and with tombs,
And yet not leave a record of their fame;
Forgotten utterly; and of their faith,
No memory, but fallen monuments,
Haunted by dim tradition.—

"All accounts of the Hindoos speak of a most dreadful persecution carried on by the Bramins, the sect of Bhud, many years ago, and the subsequent expulsion of the latter, whose doctrines extend over Ceylon, Thibet, Tonquin, Cochin China, throughout China, exists largely in Japan, and is without doubt the religion which has the most numerous followers in the world. Next to this, I suppose, the Christian can boast the greatest number of believers; then the Mahometans; and, lastly, the Braminical—being the four principal religions which divide the habitable world.

"As to the antiquity of the two religions, if we allow the figure of Bhud to be the personification of fire, as some of the statutes representing this deity have a small flame on the tops of their heads, and that one of the earliest religions amongst mankind sprung from natural respect towards the sun, and also grant that the Bramins come, according to their own admission, from the northward, the preference seems due to that of Bhud."

See Colonel Fitzclarence's (now Lord Munster's) Journey Overland from India; one of the most interesting and able works of the time.